Innovative producer, composer, and keyboardist, Himiko, fits the definition of enigma perfectly.
She’s a kind and soft-spoken Japanese woman who wears a cat mask on stage and creates melodic tunes that can fall into the categories of ambient and jazz… But also noise rock, death metal, and black metal.
“I started to play jazzy tunes and mix it with j-poppy stuff, but then, I don’t know how it happened or why, but it switched to more heavy stuff with guttural growls and pig squeals,” Himiko says, laughing.
She can’t recall how or when, but after discovering bands like brutal death metal band Gorevent and technical death metal band Wormed, Himiko’s sound dramatically evolved.
Actually, since her jump into the metal genre, Himiko practices the vocal techniques of growling and squealing everyday.
“I worked so hard to get the right sound. I find them very hard on my voice so I have to practice everyday to get used to it.”
Born in Saitama, Japan, Himiko took piano lessons at a young age and then eventually started learning on her own. She then moved to North America in the late ’90s and attended the University of Michigan for linguistics, visual art and music. She relocated to Edmonton and graduated from MacEwan University’s music program with a performance major in keyboards in 2001.
While at MacEwan, she worked closely with renowned pianist and educator Charlie Austin to hone in on her keyboard talent and created the jazz fusion band Heavy Metal Jazz Concepts with a few of her classmates.
After some members moved away, Himiko launched her solo career in 2005 with the soothing and ambient electronic pop album Mai. Since then she has released seven full-length albums with her newest album Skin Removal on the way.
“I’m excited for the new album. It’s totally random with rhythm and has some nice hardcore stuff too,” she says.
Himiko is adept at sampling musical bits. It’s how she crafts most of her songs.
“Usually I start with a drum beat I like first and throw some distortion in and maybe find some guitar with some sampling software. Then maybe I throw in some keyboards and harsh vocals that I record myself and for lyrics, I just use what I am thinking about.”
When she performs live, Himiko is usually seen wearing a cat mask.
“I started wearing it to kind of hide myself, but now I think it fits who I am. It’s also fun to wear a cat mask while playing keyboards,” she says, laughing.
With her live show, Himiko tries to play a mixture of her jazzy and hardcore stuff. Usually, she will create a set based on the kind of genres the other artists fit on the bill.
“Sometimes I will play for a noise crowd so I play my more pop and jazz stuff, but sometimes it’s a hardcore punk and metal crowd. I just want to make sure the crowd goes home happy.”
Wed, Aug, 31 (8:00pm)
Damno Te w/ NAU92, Himiko, and Motonogo
The Mercury Room, $10